New Palace Yard
|New Palace Yard|
View of New Palace Yard in 2017, looking south-east
|Location||Westminster, London, England|
|Area||Palace of Westminster|
|Governing body||Government of England|
New Palace Yard is an open courtyard northwest of the Palace of Westminster in Westminster, London, England. It forms part of the Palace estate and is not open to the public. The yard has existed since around the year 1100, but it has been considerably reduced in size over the years due to the construction of new streets and buildings, most notably the current Palace (which was built across the eastern end of the yard). An underground car park used by parliamentarians is located beneath the yard, as well. Prior to the construction of the present Palace of Westminster, the yard was an open public space used for a variety of purposes including speeches, tournaments, pilloryings, and executions. It has twice been the scene of terrorist attacks.
New Palace Yard is situated in the north-west corner of the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. It is bounded to the north by Bridge Street, to the east by the Palace's North Front and Big Ben, to the south by Westminster Hall and to the west by Parliament Square. It is accessed from Parliament Square via the Carriage Gates. Underneath the yard is a five-level underground car park with 450 spaces for parliamentarians' cars, which was constructed between 1972 and 1974. Westminster Hall's north end is accessed via the yard, which is also the site of the Members' Entrance to the House of Commons.
The yard is laid out as a garden with trees and a lawn surrounded by an oval roadway. A fountain in the central lawn was installed in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II and recalls a similar fountain built nearby in medieval times. The fountain, by Valenty Pytel, is decorated with images of fauna from six continents and is surmounted by a gilded crown.
New Palace Yard was named in reference to the first Palace of Westminster, built by the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor around 1050. The yard was created after William II of England constructed Westminster Hall in 1097 and was given the appellation "New" to distinguish it from Old Palace Yard a few hundred metres further south.
The yard was an open area for centuries, surrounded by buildings on all sides. Henry VI constructed a large cupola-topped fountain there in 1443, which stood until the late 17th century. According to the 16th century historian John Stow, the fountain, which was known as the Great Conduit, was made to run with wine to mark coronations and other great state events.
The yard's location within the royal precinct of Westminster made it a site for displays of royal justice over the centuries. Several executions and mutilations took place there; in 1580 the Puritan attorney John Stubs and his serant Robert Page both had their hands cut off as punishment for libelling Queen Elizabeth I, while in 1612 the Scottish nobleman Robert Creighton, Lord Sanquire, was hanged in the yard for murder. Lesser criminals were publicly exposed in a pillory erected on the site. Two such were the pretender Perkin Warbeck, pilloried in 1498, and Titus Oates, pilloried there during the reign of King James II for the Popish Plot. The last person to be pilloried there was the publisher of the North Briton newspaper in 1745. Tournaments and executions were also staged there.
New Palace Yard was originally much larger than it is today. An etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, published in 1647, shows the area as an enclosed rectangle with houses flanking Westminster Hall on both sides, Henry VI's fountain and stands for coaches in the centre, a row of shops, taverns and eating-houses on the north side and a large square gatehouse on the west side giving access to King Street. The gatehouse was built by Richard III and stood until 1707. A tower to the north side was built under Edward Iand demolished in 1715; it housed the bell known as Great Tom. Many of the buildings around New Palace Yard were swept away in the 1750s by the urban redevelopment that accompanied the construction of Westminster Bridge. Bridge Street was built to the north of the yard, Parliament Street was built to connect it with Charing Cross, and Abingdon Street was built to connect the Palace with Millbank. A row of buildings separated the yard from Bridge Street until their demolition in 1866–7.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the perimeter of New Palace Yard was occupied by coffee houses and taverns. It provided a site for public meetings such as the September 1838 rally in support of the People's Charter. Public access to New Palace Yard was restricted from 1866 after a demonstration held in Hyde Park for parliamentary reform turned violent. Edward Barry was commissioned to enclose the yard with railings standing 7 feet (2.1 m) high, which were completed by February 1868. It was occasionally opened to the public to attend public speeches by the likes of William Ewart Gladstone, but is now treated as a secure area, not accessible to the public.
New Palace Yard has twice been the scene of terrorist attacks. On 31 March 1979, an Irish National Liberation Army car bomb killed MP Airey Neave as he exited the underground car park at New Palace Yard. On 22 March 2017, a 52-year-old Briton crashed a car into the perimeter fence of the Palace grounds, after driving into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge. After abandoning the vehicle, he ran into the New Palace Yard and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer, an unarmed police officer guarding the Carriage Gates. He was then shot by an armed close protection officer and died at the scene.
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